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Suit won’t stop CWB change, Ritz says

Legal challenges won’t stop Canada’s government from passing a law by the end of 2011 to end the Canadian Wheat Board’s grain marketing monopoly, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Tuesday.

The Wheat Board and a third-party group will challenge the Conservative government’s plans in Federal Court in Winnipeg on Dec. 6, arguing that Ottawa acted illegally by moving to scrap the CWB’s monopoly without holding a farmer vote, as the current law requires.

The Conservatives maintain that any government has the right to change legislation. Their draft bill, once approved next month, would allow any grain marketer, including a restructured CWB, to sign forward price contracts with farmers to buy their 2012 wheat and barley harvests.

The CWB’s monopoly on marketing western Canadian wheat and barley for milling or export would end as of Aug. 1, 2012 according to the legislation.

"The top court"

"The court challenge is not going to stop us," Ritz told reporters at the Canada Grains Council meeting in Ottawa. "I don’t think there’s a court in the land that doesn’t agree that Parliament is the top court in the land. And we will continue to move forward."

Ritz said he can’t predict when the House of Commons will hold its final vote on the legislation, but he expects it will then make its way through the Senate and become law before Christmas.

The Conservatives control both the House of Commons and the Senate and will not need the support of an opposition party to pass the legislation.

Ritz said he has not had many recent discussions with CWB CEO Ian White and four other government appointees to the CWB board about plans to transform the agency into an open-market player once the legislation becomes law.

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